Paddy Ashdown reveals he has bladder cancer

Former leader of Liberal Democrats, 77, says he is being ‘wonderfully looked after’

The former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown has revealed he has been diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Ashdown, 77, said he recently learned of his diagnosis and was being treated near his home in Somerset.

“I have known for about three weeks that I am suffering from a cancer of the bladder,” he told Somerset Live. “I’m being effectively and wonderfully looked after by everyone at Yeovil hospital, in whom I have complete confidence.

“We must see about the outcome, which as always with things like this is unpredictable. I’ve fought a lot of battles in my life.”

A spokesman for the Lib Dems said Ashdown had informed his colleagues of the illness two weeks ago. “We wish him a speedy recovery and know that he will fight this with the vigour of a person 40 years younger,” he said. “We all send our love to him, Jane and the family.”

The Lib Dem leader, Vince Cable, called Ashdown “one of the great British political figures of the past 30 years and the man who built the Lib Dems into a parliamentary force”.

Ashdown began his career in the military as a Royal Marine and a member of the Special Boat Service, before going on to represent the Somerset constituency of Yeovil from 1983 to 2001.

He led his party for 11 of those years, from 1988, after the Social Democratic party, which had been formed of breakaway Labour MPs seven years earlier, merged with the Liberal party.

Tim Farron, Cable’s predecessor, said: “Paddy has been a hero and mentor of mine for many years. He saved the party during its darkest hour and led it to its greatest successes.”

Ashdown’s Lib Dems won 46 seats in the 1997 general election – the best showing for a third party since 1929. He had discussed forming a coalition with Tony Blair in the run-up to polling day, but Labour’s landslide was large enough to allow the party to govern alone.

Ashdown campaigned vigorously against Brexit during the 2016 referendum, telling the Guardian later that year that he had turned to his wife, Jane, after the result and said, “it’s not our country any more”.

Guardian staff

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